Ehrlichiosis disease in dogs
Help protect Territory dogs
Ehrlichiosis has been confirmed in the Northern Territory (NT).
All dog owners should follow the advice below.
Ehrlichiosis is a disease spread by the brown dog tick. It primarily affects dogs. It can result in death if not properly treated.
In very rare cases, infected ticks may infect people. Infections in people are usually easy to treat.
Dog owners should have their dogs on a tick control program, regularly check their dogs for ticks and be on the lookout for signs of the disease.
How it is spread
Dogs become infected with the bacteria Ehrlichia canis after being bitten by an infected brown dog tick. The brown dog tick is widely distributed worldwide and is present in Australia.
Once ehrlichiosis is in the tick population, it is very difficult to control, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions.
Infected dogs do not transmit ehrlichiosis to people. In very rare cases, infected ticks may infect people. Read more about the human health impacts of ticks on the Western Australia Department of Health website.
Symptoms of ehrlichiosis infection in dogs can include:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- swelling of chest or front legs
- cloudy eyes or conjunctivitis
- pain and stiffness
- bleeding disorders such as nosebleeds or bruising on the gums or belly.
How to protect your dog
Do all of the below to protect your dogs from ehrlichiosis.
- Have your dogs on a tick control program. Tick collars and spot-ons are the best primary protection used in combination with tablets and chews registered for tick control.
- Have any tick infestations in your house or yard managed by a pest controller.
- Avoid taking your dogs into tick-infested areas. Take particular care when bush-walking with your dog.
- Inspect your dogs daily for ticks, especially if they have been in a tick-infested areas. Run your fingers through your pet’s coat over their skin, feeling for abnormal bumps. Pay particular attention to the head, neck, ears, chest, between their toes and around their mouths and gums.
- Contact your vet if you find ticks on your dog and are concerned about the risk of ehrlichiosis.
- Be on the lookout for signs of ehrlichiosis, such as fever, lethargy and appetite loss.
When to see a vet
You must seek veterinary attention immediately if your pet is showing signs of ehrlichiosis, such as fever, lethargy and weight loss.
Other tick-borne diseases such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis have similar symptoms to ehrlichiosis. These diseases are present in the NT so it is important to seek advice and treatment.
If you find a tick on your dog, contact your vet for tick control treatment options.
Protecting your dog in the community
If your dog has contact with other dogs in your community, such as through kennels or dog groups, you should make sure its vaccinations and tick, flee and worm treatments are up to date.
Boarding your dog
Check that your your local boarding kennel have strong disease prevention measures in place.
Dogs with known or suspected infectious diseases should not be boarded.
Travelling with dogs
Travelling with dogs can increase exposure to infectious diseases.
Avoid contact with other dogs when making stops along your journey, such as at fuel stations, truck stops or caravan parks. This will help to avoid ehrlichiosis transmission between dogs by the brown dog tick.
If your dog gets sick when travelling, tell your veterinarian where you went and when.
Social group dog activities
Participating in social group dog activities can also increase exposure to infectious diseases.
Avoid taking dogs into tick-infested areas such as the bush where possible.
Inspect dogs for ticks after being in tick-infested areas (especially around the neck, head, ears, armpits and belly) and carefully remove any ticks. Your vet can advise on the best methods of tick removal.
If your dog has been diagnosed with ehrlichiosis, it is important you follow the treatment plan recommended by your vet.
This includes completing the course of antibiotics prescribed. Early antibiotic treatment provides the best chance of recovery.
In some cases very sick dogs may need supportive care and hospitalisation.
Don't move your dog
Don’t move your dog away from your town or community until it is recovered and it’s treatment is finished.
Treat your home and yard
Controlling ticks in your environment is important to break the transmission cycle of the disease. Speak with a professional pest controller about treating your home.
Ticks can live in cracks and crevices around your house and yard, around kennels, and inside skirting boards, window and door frames. They can survive for many months without feeding.
Report the disease
Ehrlichiosis is a nationally notifiable disease.
This means if you suspect your dog is showing signs of the disease, you must report it to either:
- your local vet
- or by calling the national Emergency Animal Disease Watch hotline on 1800 675 888.
Choose from the following information.
Guidelines for veterinarians
Veterinarians managing suspected or confirmed cases of ehrlichiosis should read:
Get the print-friendly information sheets:
Use the following posters to share information about ehrlichiosis prevention and symptoms:
Last updated: 02 March 2021
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